Reflections 2.0

Torment in the World, Trouble in One’s Life  

The torment of human history – what has been its cause?

What does the Bible say about the cause of human torment?

Have you been personally hurt by those who should have helped you?

Have you been personally hurt?

Is suffering meaningless?

Is there anything or anyone who can redeem suffering and give it meaning?  

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The torment of human history – what has been its cause?

Reflecting on the torment of human history, that long wail of suffering, what has been its cause? Has it not been human pride, which always seems to conclude, “I am in the right! I insist on getting my own way! You get out of my way or else!”

This pride causes the rise tyrannies of all sorts and explodes them all across the face of the earth, such as murder, persecutions, evil governments, and terrorism. Such evils are so common among us that television programs are entirely based on these evils, also movies, books, internet sites, and video games. These mediums are popular… as forms of entertainment. Do you enjoy?

We can attach names to the most famous of these human destroyers that have populated every century of human existence since the beginning such as Attila the Hun, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Jack the Ripper, James Manson, Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and present day ISIS, an Islamic terrorist organization murdering and beheading Christians and all who get in their way. How did it come to this?

What does the Bible say about the cause of human torment?

In the beginning, the Bible tells us of the two human beings, a man and a woman, whom God created in original perfection—they were holy, loving, rational, creative, and moral. They were also created with something called a free will. This means that they were pure but also free to live in that purity, and also free to choose sin and suffer the consequences. These first two humans, Adam and Eve, did not live long in their original purity and freedom. Soon, they were tempted by the devil, who was an angel created in original holiness with a free will. He chose to abuse his freedom and became a rebel, a purely evil one against God his Creator. This fallen angel wanted to be God! So, as he approached Adam and Eve, he did so as a fallen angel, intent on creating rebellion in their hearts against their Creator, just as he had rebelled. He tempted them to rebel against God’s word regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (See Genesis chapter 2, verses 15-17). The devil promised them they would become “like God” by eating from this tree (See Genesis, chapter 3, verse 1-5). Adam and Eve fell for it, and ate from tree. But they did not become God, but rather became “gods” in their own eyes. The devil had tempted to turn away from their Creator and become their own gods, with their own sense of right and wrong. This is pride! Pride kills! So, the Bible, in Genesis, chapter 4, in tells us of the very first murder by the very first murderer. Adam and Eve had two sons, and one of them we know by name as the very first murderer. His name is Cain. We also know the world’s first murder victim by name. His name is Abel, Cain’s own brother, whom he willfully murdered out of raw jealousy.

Since then, mankind is completely unable to manage and handle itself, always abusing, always destroying because of its own sense or rightness, for its own “cause.” Can you reflect on this in your own life? Do you abuse, destroy, because of your own sense of rightness, your “cause”? Isn’t, then, the story of the destroyer, which torments every age of human history, our own story too? We might feel like victims, the ones always being wronged or hurt, but have we also persecuted? Do we dare look for evidence of the persecutor inside each of us? He rampages in our thoughts most of all, which we cannot control, and we do not want anyone to know that we think the thoughts we do. (Consider if we could read each other’s thoughts…we would never leave our rooms again. It would terrify us to live in “society.”) Jesus said the following about the evil of our thoughts, equating anger with actual murder. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,’ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew, chapter 5, verses 21-22). Who shall escape judgment if this is the criteria?  

Have you been personally hurt by those who should have helped you?

A man named Job, who lived over 4,000 years ago, came to believe he had been wronged. He demanded an answer concerning the cause of his pain and loss. He demanded God to answer him. He had lost everything, even his own sons and daughters to death. God was testing him, allowing the devil to torment him. Job’s wife and friends spoke harshly to him, suggesting he had it coming, that he MUST have deserved it in some unbelieving way. Job became defensive: No, I have been wronged! I deserve an answer! Finally he said, “I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing” (Job, chapter 31, verse 35).

Let us ask ourselves: Is his story ours? Have we ever found ourselves in a situation that seemed unfair, that we were victimized by unseen cosmic forces, which somehow had decided to single us out? Did we demand an answer? Did it seem that no answer was coming? This was Job’s perspective, saying, “Oh, if I only had someone to hear me!” But no one really did seem to hear. God was silent. If this is your story, my story, did we reach the conclusion, “God does not exist,” or, “If this is the way God treats me, then I am better off without him.” Job was a believer in God whom God identified as the strongest believer in the world, yet Job still suffered from these prideful thoughts and doubts. Job had become a victim in his mind, demanding to be avenged. Are we not like him? But God was listening, and finally, at the right time, he answered Job in a way that Job did not expect: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me” (Job chapter 38, verses 1 and 2).  

Is suffering meaningless?  

Suffering can appear and feel very meaningless. Perhaps we are tempted to kill ourselves to finally escape from it (our final act as our own god…we will die when we say so). Isn’t this the way we all look at suffering? In the end, we want the suffering to end as soon as possible, so that we can return to a happier state of mind, and a regular flow of living. If it won’t end, we’ll end it.

There was a wise man who served as king of Israel around 1000 BC. His name was Solomon. He said the following about the suffering that we experience in life: “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem, ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!’” (Ecclesiastes, chapter 1, verses 1 and 2) “Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes, chapter 4, verses 1-3). This was the struggle of Job, who lived long before Solomon. This is our struggle too, we who follow both Job and Solomon. We find ourselves in agreement with both Job and Solomon. Suffering, in itself, is meaningless.  There is no good in it.

Is there anything or anyone to redeem suffering and give it meaning?

So it was for this reason that Jesus Christ, God’s almighty Son, was conceived in the young, poor, Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit, and born from her, a human baby boy. He came to buy back our suffering in order to give it both meaning and value. On the cross, with the world’s oppression mocking him and crushing him as one who had no value at all, he cried out in his suffering, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me” (Matthew, chapter 27, verse 46)?  He died there, bearing all oppression and suffering in the place of all, on behalf of all, for you and me, including the oppression of which we are guilty. Then he arose from death! One of Jesus’ disciples, named Peter, had this to say about Jesus’ suffering and how it gives meaning to our own suffering, that is, when we suffer for doing right. “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (First Peter, chapter 2, verses 19-24).

Questions to Consider

1) Why do you think human nature finds entertainment by what should be abhorred?

2) What help and meaning does the truth of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection provide for you when you experience some kind of hurt, oppression, or suffering in this world?

3) How can you help your fellow human beings with the truth of Jesus when they experience suffering in the world?